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10 June 2005

Hotel Rwanda

Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Nick Nolte & Joaquin Phoenix
Directed by Terry George

From Hollywood Video: "Based on the true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda."

Preparing to watch this film was like tightening my stomach in preparation for a punch -- not that I know what that feels like physically, but the movie had a raw emotional power than felt akin to physical pain. Multiple scenes stand out as wrenching and painfully illustrative of the Hutu militia's calculated cruelty during this outrageous horror of history, but these scenes were to be expected.

For me, the most difficult scene to watch was when a group of nuns and priests came to the hotel for shelter, seeking transport out of Rwanda with other anglos who had been secured safe, UN-protected passage to their respective countries. As they emerged into the hotel courtyard, they were forcefully pulled apart from the orphans they loved and protected -- Tutsi children who were being left behind to die -- by UN peacekeepers. "No Rwandans on the busses," they were told. The UN sanctioned this. The USA and the nations of Europe allowed this. Brutal and shameful. Joaquin Phoenix, in a small but interesting role as a photo-journalist, was very eloquent about this outrage.

More subtle, however, was Don Cheadle's portrayal of a man betrayed. He had believed that his place in society was an important one. He mingled with and tended to the powerful, famous people who visited the hotel. He was on a first-name basis with the head of the Belgian company who owned the hotel. But Nick Nolte, as a Canadian in charge of the UN envoy, shamefully pointed out: to the people of Europe and the US, he was lower than a nigger -- he was an African. Ultimately, Paul's loss of innocence is tempered by his faith in his family and by a fortunate cascade of events that lead to his survival, and to the survival of 1,268 people he protected through his extraordinary efforts. A brilliant, moving, difficult movie with inspiring performances.

Blogger Tess said...

Thanks for pointing me in the direction of your review! I agree with your comments--it was a very powerful movie.



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